The Journal Gazette
Thursday, January 20, 2022 1:00 am

Prospect Watch

Notre Dame freshman began to shine in no time

JOHN MARSHALL | Associated Press

Blake Wesley arrived at Notre Dame without some of the same fanfare as other incoming freshmen. The accolades went to players such as Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren, Duke's Paolo Banchero and Auburn's Jabari Smith.

An explosive start to his freshman season has put Wesley in the conversation about college basketball's best players and, possibly, put him in position to become the first one-and-done player at Notre Dame.

“He's very special,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We've just got to keep grooming him and how to play around him and off of him.”

A lanky 6-foot-5 guard, Wesley stayed in South Bend after starring at Riley High School, where he averaged 27.1 points as a senior. He was ranked No. 111 nationally in the 247Sports composite and opened his Notre Dame career with 21 points against Cal State Northridge.

Wesley has flourished since becoming a starter seven games into the season, averaging 14.3 points – second on the team – 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He's proven to be an explosive finisher and has not shied away from challenges, scoring 24 points in front of 14,000 opposing fans at Illinois.

“He's very fortunate that he plays with some senior guards that allow him and know, you've got the ball, go make plays for us,” Brey said.

Scouting Wesley

Size: 6-5, 185 pounds.

Statistics: 14.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 34% 3-point shooting.

Strengths: Exceptional athlete who can beat defenders off the dribble and is an explosive finisher. A good perimeter shooter who's also comfortable bringing the ball up as the point guard.

Weaknesses: Needs to put on weight. Slight frame could make it difficult for him to fight through contact at the next level. Has good shooting form, but hitting just 69% of his free throws so far this season.

Draft projection: Mid first round if he comes out this year, potential lottery pick if he stays another year.

Other ACC draft prospects

Trevor Keels, Duke: The freshman has a solid frame at 6-5, 221 pounds and scored 25 points against Kentucky in his first college game. He's averaging 11.9 points, but suffered a right knee injury against Florida State on Tuesday.

Dawson Garcia, North Carolina: The sophomore big man is a solid shooter and rebounder who plays hard. The 6-11 forward scored 26 against Purdue this season and is averaging 9.1 points and 5.5 rebounds.

Jake Laravia, Wake Forest: The 6-8 junior is shooting 60% from the floor and averages 14.8 points and 6.0 rebounds. He is a good shooter, is excellent coming off screens and comfortable bringing the ball up the floor.

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